Former Umno strongman Kadir Sheikh Fadzir has launched his new party, but is he merely babysitting it for Kelantan prince?
Months of speculation on the next move of former Umno minister and former MP for Kulim Bandar Baru, Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, comes to an end yesterday as he formed a new party, Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia (Ikatan).
Everyone thought that the flamboyant Umno politician has retired for good when he was dropped as the candidate for the Kulim Bandar Baru parliamentary seat in Kedah in the 2008 general election.
The seat was then given to his younger brother Abd Aziz but he lost it to PKR candidate Zulkifli Noordin. Zulkifli eventually became a thorn in the flesh for PKR and later left the party.
In recent months, Kadir became a newsmaker once again when he came out in the open to criticise Umno and joined together with Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to form a new NGO, Angkatan Amanah Merdeka (Amanah).
Kadir left Umno in March and was expected to join one of the Pakatan Rakyat parties but now has announced the formation of a new political party. It is also speculated that Kadir could be the new Pakatan candidate for Kulim Bandar Baru.
With the formation of a new party, Kadir has once against raised speculations that he is forming the new party and “parking” it for Tengku Razaleigh in the event the latter decides to leave Umno.
Tengku Razaleigh’s dilemma
During the recent visit of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to Kelantan, Tengku Razaleigh, popularly known as Ku Li, was prominently featured with him in the mainstream media suggesting that both of them enjoyed a good relationship.
However, as the general election nears, Umno circles are eagerly waiting whether Tengku Razaleigh would be fielded again for the Gua Musang seat in Kelantan which he has held for decades, both when he was in Umno or the opposition.
Najib is expected to retain Tengku Razaleigh as the Umno candidate for Gua Musang and Tengku Razaleigh himself has indicated that he would continue with Umno and has no intention of leaving the party.
At the same time, it is also clear that Tengku Razaleigh could easily win Gua Musang whether he is in Umno or not as he has proven in several general elections before.
In the general election held in 1990 and 1995, Tengku Razaleigh comfortably retained Gua Musang even as a candidate from Semangat 46, then joining with PAS.
Najib faces a dilemma when it comes to Tengku Razaleigh. If he drops him as a candidate, it is as good as a seat lost for Umno since Tengku Razaleigh would contest as an independent and even PKR and PAS may support him.
If Najib retains Tengku Razaleigh, there is a fear among Umno circles that Tengku Razaleigh may lead a faction from Umno to support Pakatan to form the next federal government.
If the results of the 13th general election lead to a hung Parliament, then Tengku Razaleigh, as an elected MP, may play a crucial role in deciding which political group should form the next federal government.
Being a royalty himself, his influence among the rulers would also be a crucial factor in deciding the next federal government.
If Tengku Razaleigh continues with Umno, Najib would also have another worry – would Tengku Razaleigh lead a campaign for the ouster of Najib in the event Umno loses badly in the general election?
It is almost a certainty that Najib would face the same fate as Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in the event he is unable to win the general election with a comfortable majority.
In such an event, Muhyiddin Yassin’s supporters are expected to push out Najib citing his failures so that Muhyiddin would be able to take over as prime minister and Umno president, a scenario where Tengku Razaleigh would be able to play a prominent role, given the fact that he still wields considerable support within Umno’s rank and file.
Whether Kadir would be able to get the necessary approval for the registration of his party before the general election is doubtful, but it is clear that Tengku Razaleigh is preparing for eventualities in case he is dropped as the Umno candidate for Gua Musang.
If he is dropped, then he may lead a faction to exit from Umno to embrace Kadir’s new party and may contest in Gua Musang under the new party’s ticket and possibly be supported by Pakatan.
RJ Rajah is an observer and writer on Malaysian politics and social issues.